In its beautiful new location on North Broad Street, with such a wide variety of health services and amenities available to neighborhood residents, the humble beginnings of the Ruth U. Fertel Tulane Community Health Center are not at all apparent looking in.
The center was founded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when Tulane providers set up outside of Covenant House on North Rampart Street with a folding table and chairs, said Dana Keren, the center's community outreach coordinator. Tulane ended up leasing space in Covenant House and operated for six years in a six-room area that had been a boys' dormitory, using the kitchen as a sign-in room, with dividers to separate different rooms.
The Fertel Hospitality Group donated the building on North Broad Street and Orleans Avenue, formerly the original Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, in 2009, and the Ruth U. Fertel Tulane Community Health Center opened in mid-2012. The move tripled the clinic's space, which now includes 13 exam and treatment rooms; a community engagement space for educational, interactive health programming; a computer lab; mental and behavioral health services; and social services, including legal aid and a full-time social worker. Additionally, the center is pleased to announce they are now offering pediatric services.
The staff was nervous to move, Keren said, but the center ended up moving closer to a large portion of their patient population, who live in the neighborhoods surrounding Broad Street—Treme, Faubourg St. John, Mid-City and Lower Mid-City.
"We love being on the corner," Keren said. "We've had meetings with Zulu. We wanted to make sure that they knew we were here, so they let us present at two of their meetings." Keren and other staff also attend neighborhood meetings and have formed partnerships with several neighborhood groups, offering services including tours and educational experiences with the youth at Liberty's Kitchen, presentations at Sojourner Truth Community Center, and health events and screenings at St. Peter Claver, St. Leo the Great and other area churches.
In addition to the outreach performed by the clinic's staff, the building itself is also more inviting than a typical doctor's office. Exam rooms are named after musicians; patients are invited into rooms with decorated signs designating them Duke Ellington, or Kermit Ruffins. Photographs of Mardi Gras Indians, donated by Randy Fertel, decorate spaces provided for community meetings and gatherings.
The Ruth U. Fertel Tulane Community Health Center is located at 711 N. Broad Street, and is open Monday and Thursday, from 8 am to 7 pm, and Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, from 8 am to 5 pm.